(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Dawkins

“We are a species which is naturally moved by curiosity, the only one left of a group of species (the genus Homo) made up of a dozen equally curious species”*…

… and one thing that curiosity might lead us to wonder is where evolution might take humanity from here. As Nick Longrich points out…

Discussions of human evolution are usually backward looking, as if the greatest triumphs and challenges were in the distant past. But as technology and culture enter a period of accelerating change, our genes will too. Arguably, the most interesting parts of evolution aren’t life’s origins, dinosaurs, or Neanderthals, but what’s happening right now, our present – and our future.

He reasons to some fascinating possibilities…

Humanity is the unlikely result of 4 billion years of evolution.

From self-replicating molecules in Archean seas, to eyeless fish in the Cambrian deep, to mammals scurrying from dinosaurs in the dark, and then, finally, improbably, ourselves – evolution shaped us.

Organisms reproduced imperfectly. Mistakes made when copying genes sometimes made them better fit to their environments, so those genes tended to get passed on. More reproduction followed, and more mistakes, the process repeating over billions of generations. Finally, Homo sapiens appeared. But we aren’t the end of that story. Evolution won’t stop with us, and we might even be evolving faster than ever.

It’s hard to predict the future. The world will probably change in ways we can’t imagine. But we can make educated guesses. Paradoxically, the best way to predict the future is probably looking back at the past, and assuming past trends will continue going forward. This suggests some surprising things about our future…

Meet our future selves: “Future evolution: from looks to brains and personality, how will humans change in the next 10,000 years?“– @NickLongrich in @ConversationUS.

* Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics


As we ponder the possible, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Richard Dawkins; he was born on this date in 1947. An evolutionary biologist, he made a number of important contributions to the public understanding of evolution. In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, he popularized the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. In The Extended Phenotype (1982), he introduced the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism’s body, but can stretch far into the environment. And in The Blind Watchmaker (1986), he argued against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms; instead, he described evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker, in that reproduction, mutation, and selection are unguided by any designer.


Me, me meme…

Jeremy Toeman explains…

And TechCrunch elaborates…

Richard Dawkins’ definition of a meme in The Selfish Gene is “a unit of cultural transmission.” Like genes and diseases, the prevailing characteristic of memes is that they tend to replicate, just add humans.

Anything can be a meme, but there are certain characteristics that make information units more likely to go viral (namely funniness).

The Internet, where replication is as easy as hitting “Like” or “Retweet,” is one big meme pool.  Internet hipsters (people who spend a lot of time online – cough) now judge each other by whether they posted it before whatever it is it hit Buzzfeed.

Much like hardy genes confer biological advantage, being aware of memes now confers a feeling of superiority amongst those in the know. Hence the above video, which was basically engineered to propagate itself.

(TotH to Laughing Squid)


As we prepare to go viral, we might recall that it was on this date in 1960 that fishermen in British Columbia ended a labor dispute that had shut down the province’s herring fishery for a full year.

Back at work… (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 16, 2010 at 1:01 am

Oh yeah?…

It’s tough to assess the dueling explanations of the fix(es) that we’re in , and to judge the completing claims for remedies.  Happily, a professional skeptic– founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, Scientific American columnist, and economics professor)– Michael Shermer has ridden to the rescue with his Baloney Detection Kit— “ten questions we should ask when encountering a claim.”

1.   How reliable is the source of the claim?
2.   Does the source make similar claims?
3.   Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
4.   Does this fit with the way the world works?
5.   Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
6.   Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
7.   Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
8.   Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
9.   Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

(Presented by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. C.F. also, the ever-insightful Howard Reingold’s “Crap Detection 101,” with it’s allusion to John McManus’ terrific Detecting Bull: How to Identify Bias and Junk Journalism in Print, Broadcast and on the Wild Web.”)

As we get to the bottom of things
, we might note that, while this is the day that folks in the U.S. celebrate the Declaration of Independence in 1776 of the US from Great Britain, it is also a day to spare a memorial thought for two of the drafters and signers of that document, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (respectively, of course, the second and third Presidents of the United States), as both died on this date 1826.

source: SomethingKnew

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